MSU Will Eventually Have a Good Offensive Line

MSU Will Eventually Have a Good Offensive Line

Mississippi State offensive line coach J.B. Grimes is known in the coaching circles as one of the best offensive line coaches in the business. That's the very reason MSU head coach Sylvester Croom hired him. But it's been tough even for the veteran Grimes, primarily due to the rash of injuries his young, but talented freshmen linemen have had to deal with during this training camp.

"When you look at our injury list, especially the offensive injury list, almost everyone of them are freshmen," said Grimes. "At one time, we had 6 or 7 offensive linemen wearing red cross jerseys. The bottom line is you can't make the club in the tub. That's an old saying that has been said over and over. And it's the truth for us right now. We just have to get some guys back out on the field. You only get better by doing it, not by talking about it. The older guys, the guys who have been through the wars, are able to survive and get through these practices. But a lot of these young guys aren't quite equipped to be able to finish the tough practices that we have."

But he knows, from his many years of coaching, the youngsters will turn it around.

"Some of that will come from going back out there and doing it over and over until you get better at it," said the second year MSU offensive line coach. "The last few days we've seen some improvement in the offensive line, but we still have a long way to go. And no one knows that more than those kids do. They know they have to get better. The big eye in the sky don't lie. When you look at the (practice) tape, that doesn't lie. And I think they are trying and are doing everything that they can to get better. And, we, as coaches, are doing everything that we can do."

And one of the drills that will help make the youngsters become a good offensive line is a drill called the board drill. It's a one on one drill where two men go one on one against each other with everybody else looking on. It's part brute strength, part technique and part competitiveness. No man wants to be defeated by another man in front of a group of other men. Grimes explained in graphic detail the reason for the drill.

"It's jut toughness and a pad level thing," said Grimes. "Get your hands inside, get your head up, and move your feet after contact. That's been football 101 since (former Notre Dame coach) Knute Rockne coached the game.

"We are just looking for all those techniques during the board drills. If you get those things out of that drill, then that's what we want. There's a competitive spirit in that drill as well. It's one on one. It's you and him and everybody else is watching you. And you don't want to get beat. That's the competitive edge we are also trying to develop as well."

And when guys, especially the freshmen, get beat in the drill and start losing some of their confidence, that's when Grimes has to step in and give encouragement. He's been through the wars and knows that they will get better. But when you are a freshman and you have just been beaten in the board drill with all the other linemen watching, you aren't thinking of the future, but what has just happened to you.

"I'm trying to encourage (redshirt freshman) Anthony (Strauder)," said Grimes after Strauder had a poor board drill outing. "During last year's winter program, he had shoulder surgery, so he didn't get to go through the really tough winter program. He went through a tough spring program, but he didn't go through those 6 a.m. workouts and other things that really require that mental toughness. I can tell you this about Anthony Strauder, he is a good person. And we are going to fight like crazy to help him. And I think he will be a fine SEC lineman."

Another redshirt freshman offensive lineman that is going through the same thing is Dio Herrera. He's got all the tools - talent, conditioning and size - but he still lacks the consistency necessary to be a good offensive lineman.

"He had a couple of really, really good reps in the board drill," said Grimes after watching Herrera dominate his man in one particular board drill. "He's just got to take those kind of reps to the team (drills). He can't revert to some other things when he gets in team drills. To get him to do it, he just has to keep doing reps over and over until it becomes second nature to him."

And Grimes will continue working with Dio and Anthony and all the other young linemen over and over until Mississippi State, as Grimes confidently says,"will eventually have a good offensive line."


Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by email at swindoll@genespage.com.

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